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Personal Development  |  5 min read

12 marketing buzzwords for newbies

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Ellis Friedman

Whether you’re new to the marketing game or an old hand, you’ll always encounter (or perhaps pepper into your own conversations) industry buzzwords. Buzzwords—aka jargon—can act as effective shorthand to convey your ideas, or they can just be hollow filler words. Of course, it all depends on the context, but here are the many of the latest buzzwords defined, explained, and ranked.

The ranking system

  • Relevant: This is a word you should know and is A-OK to use in conversation
  • Semi-relevant: You should know what it means, but use sparingly
  • Irrelevant: You should know what it means if only to know what people mean when they say it
  • Hollow: Meaningless—add to your Buzzword Bingo card and never utter it yourself.

1. Disrupt (v.) See also: Disruptor, disruption

To offer a product to a new, previously un-served market, or to offer a cheaper, simpler alternative to a product that already exists.

Even though few people use it in its true definition, disruption has been in the buzzword lexicon for years now. What people usually mean when they deploy the D-bomb is that they want to improve what they’re doing or offering, not actually completely revamp it.

Ranking: Irrelevant

2. Gamify (v.) See also: Gamification

To turn a straightforward, often boring thing like a website, app, or real-life tasks into a game to increase motivation and/or engagement.

Gamification involves turning ordinary tasks that people used to do because they had to do them and turns it into something they want to do. It’s easy to be cynical about millennials and shortened attention spans, but it can also be an effective strategy when correctly deployed.

Ranking: Semi-relevant. Use only if you have an actual way to gamify something.

3. Growth hacking (n.) See also: Growth hacker

A process of continually trying new things to see what’s effective.

Growth hacking sounds cooler than “Let’s throw things at the wall until something sticks,” but they’re essentially synonymous. Done right, it's a matter of finding an unorthodox—or previously unused in your business—strategy that ought to lead to rapid growth.

Ranking: Semi-relevant

4. Holistic (adj.)

A strategy meant to convey that the business as a whole is considered in the strategy.

In reality, every marketing strategy should be holistic, because any good marketing strategy will look at the whole picture. The word just conjures up “holistic healing,” making it seem almost spiritual in the marketing context, but let’s all just accept that marketing isn’t spiritual, shall we?

Ranking: Hollow

5. Ideate (v.) See also: Ideation

To think of an idea.

This can have a pretentious overtone. Instead of saying “Let’s ideate on that,” try “Let’s think of some ideas.”

Ranking: Hollow

6. Iterate (v.) See also: Iteration

To repeat something until you improve on it.

Iterate actually means to perform something repeatedly, but businesses have absconded with the real meaning and instead, use it to mean “Let’s constantly make improvements.”

Ranking: Hollow

7. KPI (n.)

Acronym for “Key Performance Indicator.” A measurable value that indicates success.

KPIs are real things that you should definitely have but they aren’t just any old metric. Sailthru has a great definition: “KPIs are an actionable scorecard that keeps your strategy on track. They enable you to manage, control, and achieve desired business results.”

Ranking: Relevant

8. Low-hanging fruit (n.)

A culinary metaphor that means going for the quickest or easiest solution for the fastest payoff.

Biblical implications aside, low-hanging fruit is effective but shorthand for “Let’s do the easiest thing that will get us quick results first.”

Ranking: Semi-relevant

9. Omnichannel (adj.) See also: Omnichannel marketing

Broadly, all the ways organizations can interact with their customers. Omnichannel marketing refers to making sure that messaging and branding remain consistent across platforms.

Omnichannel is very confusing, but omnichannel marketing is also a really good thing to do. Just make sure that if you use it, you know exactly what you mean to say.

Ranking: Relevant

10. Micro-influencer marketing (n.)

Using micro-influencers, who have a smaller reach than regular ol’ influencers but theoretically deliver higher-quality leads, to publicly recommend your product or service.

Micro-influencers tend to come from the social media realm. They may have a smaller following, but their recommendation can be incredibly powerful for a small business. So, can’t influencers just be … influencers?

Ranking: Semi-relevant

11. Snackable (adj.) See also: digestible

Another culinary metaphor referring to content that is quick to read, watch, or access.

Your content is not a packet of crackers that you stick at the bottom of your bag in case you get hungry—it’s more important than that. Consider focusing on the content platform and what works best for it (i.e. quick reads for mobile).

Ranking: Hollow

12. Thought leader (n.)

People who are inspirational and innovative, who come up with brilliant concepts that make people want to do what the thought leader says.

Most marketers say they want to “produce content that will help showcase them as thought leaders in the space.” You will probably not become a thought leader from a blog post or white paper; true thought leaders put in a lot of work to get there. And for most businesses, becoming a thought leader is not the best goal to strive for; content should be way more than that—like lead to sales.

Ranking: Semi-relevant

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